Opinion: Why are we OK with shootings?

November 9, 2017


I hate mass shootings.

Everybody hates them, of course: innocent death, fathers, fiances, best friends and sons snatched violently away, sudden carnage crashing ordinary days. But I hate them for an additional reason.

When things like this happen, you see, it’s my job to have something to say. And I’ve got nothing. More accurately, I’ve got nothing left that I haven’t already said.

Shall I parse the killer’s motivations? I did that after Columbine.

Shall I praise heroism in the midst of massacre? I did that after Aurora.

Shall I call out the evil in this world? I did that after Virginia Tech.

Shall I demand a re-examination of our gun laws? I did that after Umpqua Community College.

And it’s a mark of how often this sort of thing happens, how routine it has become, that you probably don’t even remember Umpqua. Or Isla Vista.

So no, I’ve got nothing — and even that is something I’ve said before.

The need to have something is, as you doubtless know, occasioned by our latest atrocity: 26 people shot dead in a rural church near San Antonio. Half of the victims reportedly were children, including an 18 month old toddler. The 26-year-old killer, reportedly motivated by a domestic dispute, shot babies point blank, according to an eyewitness.

Yet even at that wretched extreme, the whole thing feels routine, just another Sunday in America. Which leaves me with nothing. Except a question:

Why are we OK with this?

Not you and me as individuals, perhaps. But America, as a corporate body? It seems ever more obvious that for all the lip service we pay to “thoughts and prayers,” for all the candles we light and tears we weep, this is a thing we accept. As opposed to Islamic terror, which we don’t. You can read the distinction starkly in Donald Trump’s tweets.

After a Muslim shot up a nightclub in Orlando, the then-candidate decried our lack of toughness and demanded a ban on Muslim travel.

After a non-Muslim killed nearly 60 people in Las Vegas and wounded over 500 more, he said the killer’s “wires were crossed pretty badly in his brain.”

After a Muslim killed eight people in New York City, he mused about sending him to Gitmo and demanded the “DEATH PENALTY.”

After Sunday’s murders by a non-Muslim, he promised to stand with the people of Sutherland Springs.

It’s not that Trump won’t condemn a non-Muslim killer, but that he saves his greatest energy and outrage for the killer who claims to worship Islam, even though the former is the far deadlier threat.

And though Trump is often an outlier, his moral inconsistency here seems to reflect America’s own. Do you think that if the Texas killer had had an exotic name or begun his attack with a cry of “Allahu Akbar!” our responses would be limited to thoughts and prayers and lawmakers would be content to mouth impotent pieties?

As a wag named Michael Skolnik pointed out on Twitter, “One shoe bomber tried to blow up a plane and now we take off our shoes.” When the killer is not a Muslim, though, we treat the killing like rain, a natural vexation we lament but also accept because, what are you going to do?

But this is not rain, just a different kind of murder. Why are we OK with it?

The answer is obvious, but until we can bring ourselves to face it, we will be ill equipped to find ways of preventing tragedies like this. They will come again and again and again and again and again, numbing repetitive carnage. It will never end.

Not until it stops being OK.

— Leonard Pitts is a Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist for The Miami Herald.


Bob Summers 2 months, 1 week ago

Why are Liberals like you Pitts allowed to have firearms?

Ken Lassman 2 months, 1 week ago

Your "liberal" fuse has become too wet to get the firecracker response you used to get, Bob. Your whole bag of fireworks has been out in the rain too many times to be of any use.

Bob Smith 2 months, 1 week ago

Why are Democrats okay with the continuing slaughter in Chicago?

Ray Mizumura 2 months, 1 week ago

Because he hates Barack Obama and wants to link the former President to the murders in Chicago, where Obama once worked as a community organizer. Also, because he lacks the ability to refute any of Pitts's points in the article.

William Cummings 2 months, 1 week ago

Yes, per capita is one way to add the element of context to allow for a more apples to apples comparison.

Pete Kennamore 2 months, 1 week ago

Take a walk through S. Chicago around midnight and see how comforting your per capita element of context makes you feel

William Cummings 2 months, 1 week ago

Nice distraction from the issue of context, but then, that is how propaganda works.

Bob Smith 2 months, 1 week ago

Is there not a sizable body count in Chicago every week? Did I miss the outbreak of universal peace on the shore of Lake Michigan?

Justin Hoffman 2 months, 1 week ago

You're not missing anything. Nowhere in America are more bodies of young black men piling up than in Chicago. Pitts utters not a word. William seems non-interested as well.

William Cummings 2 months, 1 week ago

I am interested in facts, which necessarily includes context.

Dorothy Hoyt-Reed 2 months, 1 week ago

It's the constant lie that Chicago has strict gun laws that is the problem here. Yes, Chicago has a gang problem, but they do NOT have strict gun laws.

Bob Smith 2 months, 1 week ago

"...Yes, Chicago has a gang problem, but they do NOT have strict gun laws...." That may be the most incorrect thing you have ever posted here.

Brock Masters 2 months, 1 week ago

What is interesting is the number of homocides were generally higher than before Heller

William Cummings 2 months, 1 week ago

Yes, the downward trend started in 1994, 14 years before Heller. [That was the year that the federal assault weapons ban became law. ] In fact the greatest portion of the reduction occurred before the Heller decision. [Correlation does not equal causation;, and context is important.]

Overall gun death rates at the time of Heller were about 10 per 100,000, and had been pretty much unchanged for 15 years. In 2015 and 2016 rates rose to 12 per 100,000 and we are on track for the same for 2017.

Steve Hicks 2 months, 1 week ago

Maybe we're O.K. with mass-shooting because they continue happening, and happening more frequently. Our normal response is to slowly accept mass-shootings are "just the way it is."

Nobody is horrified or angered enough about "normative" events to DO anything about them. Especially when we have the assurance of the N.R.A.'s cowering political lackeys that those events evidence our sacred Second-Amendment "rights"...not evil.

It's actually a myth, about lobsters, that they will not realize they're dying if the temperature of the water they're in is slowly increased to boiling. But it does seem to work that way with human beings.

Maybe politically-gutless national "leaders" who acquiesce in the murder of their citizens are those a certain president meant, when he said mass-murders were a result of "a mental health problem at the highest level."

He should know.

Bob Smith 2 months, 1 week ago

You are aware that the NRA isn't even in the top 50 organizations that give money to politicians, aren't you?

Steve Hicks 2 months, 1 week ago

Meaning the N.R.A. doesn't really wield much power over politicians at all ?

Or would that take-away strain even your capacious appetite for "alternative facts" ?

Bob Smith 2 months, 1 week ago

Or perhaps politicians are leery of gutting the Bill of Rights in order to satisfy the yammering class over on the port side of the aisle.

Shelley Bock 2 months, 1 week ago

Mass killings have become the "Cost of Liberty". Unrestricted possession of weapons causes periodic "cleansing of society" by "mentally deranged" people every couple of months, maybe weeks. Come on, the founding fathers knew that an occasional bloodbath is good for society and increases gun and ammo sales because people need to exercise their freedom. Cost of Liberty...anguish and blood and death. Send your thoughts and prayers while you stock up on semis and ammo. Besides, it takes out at least one mentally deranged loser each event. Saves on mental health expenditures. Sad.

Bob Smith 2 months, 1 week ago

"....Unrestricted possession of weapons..." Of what country do you speak? Firearms are heavily regulated in America. The problem is that some people break the law.

Steve Hicks 2 months, 1 week ago

"Firearms are heavily regulated in America."

I'm reassured, Bob, by this evidence your appetite for "alternative facts" strains at nothing. I should never have doubted you can swallow ANYTHING your handlers feed you.

Bob Smith 2 months, 1 week ago

There are more things you are wrong about, Steve. If you doubt that firearms are heavily regulated in America, try buying one from a dealer without producing identification, or remove the serial number from a firearm, or drive to Illinois and try to buy a firearm without having an FOID card. You should keep the shiny side out.

Justin Hoffman 2 months, 1 week ago

I am sure in Pitt's next column he will address, with anger, the murder rate of black gang members in America's liberal controlled cities. Stay tuned.

Dorothy Hoyt-Reed 2 months, 1 week ago

Here you go (See below). But why shouldn't he write about white on white crime too? Are you telling me he has no right to comment about this horrible crime? Or do you not consider what happened horrible? Do you really consider these deaths collateral damage for your second amendment rights? Chicago needs to start working with their youth to stop kids from joining gangs. But suddenly all the federal grants are drying up to help do this. What have you done to help at risk youth find a purpose in life?

Steve Hicks 2 months, 1 week ago

Gee, Justin, this discussion is about the ideas and attitudes at blame for bad things happening. You must be looking for the "people to blame for bad things happening" discussion.

It's easy to find. Go backwards, and turn right.

Daniel Kennamore 2 months, 1 week ago

It seems the usual conservative crowd has answered your question Mr. Pitts.

Yes. They are okay with shootings.

They will throw every strawman and red herring they can think of as long as nobody restricts them from their guns in any way.

They love their guns more than the thousands of people they kill a year, and nothing will ever change that.

Michael Kort 2 months, 1 week ago

If there is ever a show down between BOB and a goverment owned M1A1 tank I am not going bet on BOB wining the show down .

Sorry BOB, but you are no match for a heavey tank, an assault helicopter, and F-15-16-18–22-35,........or a pilotless high flying silent drone equipped with a hellfire missile......and let's not forget the A-10 tank killer, the B1, B2 or B-52 equipped with smart or dumb bombs .

Yes, the framers of our constitution thought that we should all be able to defend ourselves from an out of civilian control government with the right to own rifles of our own,... but they never imagined a government with huge sophisticated weapons systems as we have today and that no one with a rifle with a bump stock is anywhere near their equal of..,.....and not recognizing that obvious simple fact could be a definition of conservative right wing genes ?

BOB......because we all need to know ( and probably read the national inquirer in the grocery check out line ) you own an aircraft carrier, a nuclear missile sub or any ICBMs ? ? ?

Bob Smith 2 months, 1 week ago

You sound as if you become "excited" when you think about our military killing American civilians. Twisted you are.

Brock Masters 2 months, 1 week ago

I am not okay with the violence in this country but I am not willing to give up my right to own a firearm because I have no faith in the government to protect me or my family.

I am not okay with the violence that many have to live with day in and day out. I’m not okay with children having no youth or future cause of the violence and poverty in their lives.

And, I try to be part of the solution, but that solution is not to take away my right.

Solutions include prevention and severe punishment. We need to invest in our country - education, health care etc. We need to provide better mental health care access. We need to utilize the tools in place like reporting to the background database those ineligible to own firearms.

We need to rethink our criminal penalties, e.g., life without parole for any intentional murder or attempted murder. 50 hard years for any felony committed with a firearm.

PSAs on gunnsafety and free training.

These are solutions that will make a difference.

Yours truly a gun nut

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